It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine. -REM (lyrics)
One in seven people in the world feel that the end of the world is near, according to this Reuters poll. While I don’t know about the end of days, I’ll postulate that it is the end of the tech world as we know it. Consider this:
“There’s an app for that. That’s the iPhone. Solving life’s dilemma one app at a time.” –iPhone 3g marketing, 2008
Less than 4 years later there were over a million apps in both Google Play and the App Store combined. On top of mobile, lets add the cloud. Harvard Business Review argues that cloud computing is a “sea change—a deep and permanent shift in how computing power is generated and consumed.”
There are many technologies and factors enabling the shift to the cloud and to mobile. One of them is the RESTful webservices. I won’t go into technical detail here, but I’ll recommend this Wikipedia page and this excellent book chapter for further reading. Just as there is “an app for that” for consumers, there is a “RESTful webservice for that” for developers. Does your app need to send an email, text message, save files to the cloud, keep track of customer account balances, or start a business process in your office? If so, you can easily tie to Sendgrid, Twilio, Dropbox, Accumulus, or RunMyProcess for that functionality. The number of these services is exploding, according to programmable web here is the number of services in each year: 180 in ’07, 1,627 in ’10, and 3,898 today. See a crowd-curated list of 400 of these tools here.
So, what does this mean? Apps are becoming faster, easier and cheaper to develop. This has two implications:
First, developers can now focus on their core service while utilizing webservices for peripheral functionality. This enables creating a minimum viable product for a market quickly, leading to faster profitability. After launch many will choose to replace 3rd party webservices, improving their margins.
Second, managers and others with little knowledge of programming can piece together these services to make ad-hoc cloud-based applications to automate internal or customer facing business processes. I refer to this idea, as the composable web, and we can already see this with the visual programming like environments of tarpipe.com, ifttt.com, and runmyprocess.com.
I teach a class where students learn how to automate a business process using several webservices and even cloud labor. One of them wrote this on their final exam:
With the continued innovation of technology I’m a 100% certain the need for human/manual work will become obsolete. Sadly, I estimate that 80% of tasks performed manually can be performed automatically by various programs and software, leaving only 20% that must be performed manually, to me this poses a tremendous threat to future employment. -Student, (shared with permission)
It is the end of the world as we have known it, and I feel fine.
P.S. The cloud-based (of course!) software that we use in class is RunMyProcess. Here is a great video that explains their product, along with other concepts I have tried to convey:
Just got back from CrowdConf 2011 where I shared the poster below. I met some great people and hope to describe some insights from the conference here soon.
Workflow management will cut the gordian knot of using cloud labor (labor-as-a-service) in everyday business settings. Two companies seem to have caught on to this. Cloudfactory has a new GUI to construct “assembly lines” (think manufacturing) which when run create “production runs”. And CrowdEngineering has a new tool (announced yesterday) called Crowd4Self which looks more along the lines of what I am doing with Runmyprocess.
How true that statement is, well sometimes. In a recent meeting, I sat by Wendy Gaustaferro from the Criminal Justice department. She was preparing to teach a class ideas presented in Feeley’s 1979 “The process is the punishment“, which describes the lower criminal courts of new haven Connecticut. After months of observing the Court of Common Pleas, Feeley writes:
“Jammed every morning with a new mass of arrestees who have been picked up the night before, lower courts rapidly process what the police consider to be ‘routine’ problems – barroom brawls, neighborhood squabbles, domestic disputes, welfare cheating, shoplifting, drug possession, and prostitution – not ‘real’ crimes. These courts are chaotic and confusing; officials communicate in a verbal shorthand wholly unintelligble to accused and accuser alike, and they seem to make arbitrary decision, sending one person to jail and freeing the next.”
As I understand it, the basic idea of the book is that having to go through the court process is punishment in itself. Apart from the courts there are plenty of punishing processes. DMVs, Departments of Watershed Management Offices, all conjure an image of punishing lines and archaic forms. Within the enterprise, it is often these punishing processes which lead many to take the easiest but less efficient route. All the more reason for Business Process Management and Improvement.
A few notes after over a year of using this model of BizAgi hosting:
Don’t shutdown the server. Just right click and press pause. Also, don’t ever shut down BizAgi. When you ‘un-pause’ the image everything will come right back up on IIS and the server will be web accessible immediately. This is the killer feature of using AWS for classroom use.
Starting and restarting will change the URL of the server. I don’t mind this. You can pay a few cents more and the URL will remain the same.
In the ‘how to’ below I install BizAgi onto a plain vanilla win2008 server. It did not have MS SQL or IIS etc. MS SQL Express was installed when I installed BizAgi, and then I installed IIS myself later on. I didn’t have problems with this setup as it was the ‘BizAgi default setup’. I think BizAgi is still shipping with SQL Express 2005.
I created this “how to” to aid anyone interested in trying out BizAgi (a BPMS) on a live web-accessible server. It has an extremely low entrance cost, as Amazon Web Services is used. I have embedded it below. Please post any comments here if you run into trouble, or learn something helpful for all.
This is not so much a tutorial as it is a directions list. I assume you have setup an AWS instance of some kind. If you have not, head over to EC2 for Poets.
Unfortunately Internet Explorer is very annoying and makes us press “Add” in order to download files from really anywhere. A box like the one below may come up several times. Just press “Add” and then OK.
It will take about 4 minutes to download. Meanwhile, go see how the install of IIS is doing. Once that is done — close that window. Wait for that to finish installing before installing BizAgi.
Accept all of the default settings in the BizAgi install. It might take a while to install.
Run or Start BizAgi. A shortcut is on the desktop.
When it pops up, click on Process Templates (see below). It is fun to learn from an example already built.
Press next on the windows which will appear. Accept all the defaults. A window will come up asking for DB information. Accept the defaults here and don’t change anything… just continue.
Once it is done it will have a window like this: Note the Modules and Run buttons. Before we press “Run” lets check out the Modules.
After you press Modules a screen like this will come up:
Click around and right click things and just explore this area for 10 minutes. This has all of the processes which we are about to “execute” on a live server. There are three different process models can you find all of them?
Next click on Run (green button). A browser window will pop up with your running processes. This is viewable by anyone on the web. But what’s the address? Get this by going to your AWS console and copying the public DNS field from your running instance: Mine is ec2-75-101-197-43.compute-1.amazonaws.com – copy this into a web browser. You will see the IIS screen, add /Templates to see your running processes. So the final URL (for me) is: http://ec2-75-101-197-43.compute-1.amazonaws.com/Templates/
Now send this link to your friends and have them login as different roles and start some processes. Post your server link as a comment here and share it with everyone! Although this tutorial may have been fun, using your sever (the more people that use it the merrier) demonstrates the power of BPM. After you started a few processes, go to the administrator view of BizAgi to look at the status of the processes you, your friend, or some random person has started.
After you are done playing, remember to pause your server by right clicking your running instance and pressing “stop”. This will avoid you incurring huge AWS charges! Press start to resume when you want to play with it again. You can also terminate the server when you are completely finished with it. You will see this option on the right-click menu Congratulations you have setup and run a full blown BPMS which you can turn on and off whenever you like!
At the recent ICIS conference in Phoenix. I saw a poster by some Michigan PhD students on the most popular theories used in ISR and MISQ (the field’s top 2 journals).
Here is an interesting excerpt from that paper, which I have linked to below:
“We identified 154 distinct theories by originating discipline employed in the journal articles. Among these, the top 10 widely used theories accounted for 90% of the total usage. 88 theories (57% of total) are used only once, thereby making the distribution of usage of theories exhibit a long tail, as displayed in Figure 1. Theories from Psychology and Sociology account for 32% and 17%, respectively, of the total. Economics and Organizational Science with 11% each also are prominent. ”
Here is the most interesting graph from the paper, which shows a long tail distribution. I must say a tail distribution of this length is quite surprising. However, many of these theories have been edified by the work of IS researchers.